Four senior members of Egypt’s security services will stand trial in absentia in an Italian court on Thursday over their suspected role in the disappearance and murder of student Giulio Regeni in Cairo in 2016.
Italy hopes the trial will shed light on a killing that shocked the country and strained ties with Egypt, which has repeatedly denied that its officials had anything to do with Regeni’s brutal death.
Giulio Regeni, a Cambridge University postgraduate student, disappeared in January 2016. His body was so badly disfigured his mother could barely identify him.
At the time of his disappearance, the 28-year-old PhD student was researching Egypt’s independent trade unions, a controversial subject in a country where unofficial protest movements have faced a crackdown in recent years.
His body was found dumped in a ditch by a road near Cairo on 3 February 2016. An Italian post-mortem examination found he had been tortured “in stages” between 25 January and the day of his death.
Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio told a parliamentary commission of inquiry into the case last month, that “the search for the truth has always been and will continue to be, a fundamental goal in our relations with Egypt
“Achieving a definitive picture, in the framework of a fair trial, will not bring Giulio back to his parents, but it will reaffirm the strength of justice, transparency and the rule of law in which he believed.”
Italian and Egyptian prosecutors investigated the case together, but the two sides later fell out and came to very different conclusions.
Italian prosecutors say, Major Magdi Sharif, from Egypt’s General Intelligence, Major General Tarek Sabir, the former head of state security, police Colonel Hisham Helmy and Colonel Ather Kamal, a former head of investigations in Cairo city, were responsible for the “aggravated kidnapping” of Regeni.
Sharif has also been accused of “conspiracy to commit aggravated murder”.
The suspects have never responded publicly to the accusations and Egyptian police and officials have repeatedly denied any involvement in Regeni’s disappearance and killing.
It is not clear how long the trial will last. The government has said it will seek to extradite anyone convicted in the case.
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